An investigative panel in Imo State has said a former governor, Rochas Okorocha, allegedly diverted over N6 billion from the Imo State Oil Producing Areas Development Commission (ISOPADEC).
This was contained in a report by the panel which said N6,044,774,341.37 of the agency’s funds could not be accounted for, the Nation newspaper reports.
The report comes about seven months after the panel was set up to carry out the investigation.
The current state governor, Emeka Ihedioha, had in June 2019, set up the eight-man panel to probe the activities of Mr Okorocha’s administration.
He had mandated the committee to, among other things, conduct a forensic audit on the accounts of the state domiciled in several banks.
Mr Ihedioha also asked the panel to ascertain and document the locations of and balances on all bank accounts operated by Imo State Government, its Ministries, Departments, and Agencies as of May 29, 2019.
In the report submitted on Wednesday, the panel alleged that citizens and some managing directors colluded with the immediate-past governor to misappropriate ISOPADEC funds.
Romanus Ezeogu, a retired permanent secretary who led the panel, said the Okorocha-led administration handled the funds of ISOPADEC within his eight-year tenure, “from the pit of wickedness.”
The shortfall in revenue accrual from the federation accounts unaccounted for stood at N6, 044, 774, 341.37 and the panel found a systematic diversion of the funds, he said.
He asked that Mr Okorocha be held responsible.
“Simply put, what happened translates to the fact that after diverting the commission’s for whatever purpose, the bare-faced administration of Rochas Okorocha would grab funds from other institutions to make up or cover his misappropriation of funds.
“The issue here begs for an explanation on what happened to the original 40 per cent monthly derivation fund allocated to the ISOPADEC. Rochas Okorocha should roundly be held responsible for the entire fund missing.
“The law establishing ISOPADEC provides its funding from the 13 per cent derivation from the federation accounts and not from other sources,” he said.
Mr Ezeogu said the panel also discovered the arbitrary release of funds close to the incumbent’s inauguration.
About N422 million was released to a firm for the supply of pre-inauguration vehicles and N200 million was hurriedly released for the purchase of transformers during the campaign, he explained.
On the construction of the failed Marine University, he disclosed that the project gulped N402 million. This, he described as a mirage.
While he appreciated the efforts of the panel, Governor Ihedioha promised to look into the report to pass a white paper on it – even as he assured that it is not a witch-hunt.
On his part, Mr Okorocha, now a senator, said the allegation was false and designed to tarnish his legacy.
His media adviser, Sam Onwuemeodo, who described the report as a hoax, said the lawmaker said it reflects the desperation of the Ihedioha-led administration to obliterate his legacies and incite the state against him, and to blind the people to his ineptitude.
‘What Mr Okorocha did for the oil-producing communities for eight years, the PDP administration did not do a quarter of it for 12 years,’ he claimed.
“Before now ISOPADEC was operating in a rented apartment but Okorocha built a multi-billion naira office for the Commission. Also during the PDP era, the people from the oil-bearing communities never knew what was happening in the Commission.
“It was Owelle Rochas Okorocha that empowered youths from the area and appointed them into key positions in the Commission. It is on record that Okorocha, during his time, ended militancy in the area through the disarmament of militants and the eventual empowerment programme,” he was quoted saying.
He further said Mr Ihedioha is running a government of vendetta and is not prepared for governance.
“He is only here to fight Okorocha and family, while other governors have moved on. He has no policy; he is running an internet government, where projects are only executed on Facebook.
“He is only labouring to tarnish Okorocha’s image. It has become obvious that he has no program for the state.”
Mr Okorocha is one of the many ex-governors now senators who have been accused of diversion of funds and fraud as well.
Only recently, former Abia State governor, Orji Kalu, was sentenced to 12 years in prison for N7.65 billion fraud.
Other ex-governors like Abdullahi Adamu and Theodore Orji have been arraigned by the anti-graft agency for one fraud allegation or the other.